SyncThink's brain-testing VR tech goes international with European approval

Diagnosing neurological conditions like autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Parkinson’s disease and dementia have traditionally been a largely subjective process—relying on self- or caretaker-reported assessments rather than concrete diagnostics—in addition to a slow-moving one, since many of these conditions may start with only subtle symptoms and go overlooked until more overt signs crop up.

A recent onslaught of artificial-intelligence-powered technologies aims to change that by offering digital tools that claim to be able to diagnose neurological conditions within minutes—often months or even years ahead of the typical timeline.

The FDA has already cleared a pair of AI-based apps to spot signs of autism spectrum disorder and handed down its breakthrough device designation to another app that could help physicians predict the onset of Alzheimer’s.

Late last year, the agency also OK’d a system that uses AI and virtual reality technology to assess a patient’s neurological condition—and that system from SyncThink is now heading across the pond, newly bestowed CE mark approval in hand, the company announced Wednesday.

SyncThink’s Eye-Sync platform is installed onto a pair of VR goggles. Wearing the headset, patients are guided through a short battery of assessments that clock in at less than one minute each.

Each of the assessments is designed to test a wearer’s eye movements; according to data cited by SyncThink, various forms of abnormal eye movements can be linked to developmental conditions like ADHD and autism or neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and dementia as well as other, non-disease-related conditions like concussion and sleep deprivation.

The company’s AI automatically analyzes the results of the tests, plus patient information and responses to standardized questionnaires, then sends a report to a connected tablet to help physicians make a diagnosis. The system can then be used as part of the resulting treatment regimen, as it offers a range of eye movement therapies that aim to improve attention, gaze stability, rapid fixation and more.

Eye-Sync is already compatible with a handful of VR headsets and is now beginning to venture into the augmented reality space, too. Earlier this year, SyncThink’s longtime partner Magic Leap selected the startup to receive early access to its newest AR platform, with a plan to use the tech to target vestibular disorders, a common cause of dizziness and vertigo.

Though the FDA has kept its authorized indications for the Eye-Sync platform fairly narrow, SyncThink didn’t note in this week’s announcement whether the new CE mark approval similarly limits the reach of the technology. In the U.S., it can currently be used only to help detect and diagnose concussion, mild traumatic brain injury and visual impairments.